Union in Taylor, MI tried to circumvent right-to-work law and lost

Labor Laws

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

In this post I mentioned that teachers in the City of Taylor, MI were suing to release the security clause which was the union’s attempt the force automatic dues payments for 10 years, regardless of what the law states.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission ruled Friday that teachers in the Taylor Public School District are not bound by their contract to pay union dues for the next 10 years, saying the provision violates the state’s right-to-work law.

Michigan’s law, which took effect in 2013, makes it illegal to require employees to join a union or pay fees comparable to union dues as a condition of employment. A number of teachers unions negotiated new contracts shortly before the law took effect to avoid falling under the measure, which makes financially supporting a union voluntary.

The Employment Relations Commission ruled that the security clause violated the states right-to-work law provision of forcing dues payments. 

“For Taylor teachers, the ruling is clear that the extraordinary 10-year union security agreement should not bind the teachers,” Wilcox said. “They should be free to withdraw their financial support from the union. The commission held that Taylor Federation of Teachers’ and the Taylor School District’s action was intended to delay the application of PA 349 for 10 years beyond its legislatively mandated effective date.”

Wilcox said that other districts with similar contracts “should be very concerned about this decision, as it could easily be applied to them.”

The ruling reinstates the teacher’s ability and freedom to withdraw financial support of the union. The commission agreed that the provision was intended to circumvent the law that was likely to pass at the time.

I hope that other districts with similar contract provisions such as the security clause do follow in their footsteps and protect the worker’s right to withdraw financial support.

You believe every lie your union tells you, don’t you?

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

I’ve been talking about the new right to work law in Michigan and the fall out from it in these two posts:

Teachers Union puts up smoke screen while they deny workers their rights

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

I just can’t believe the lies every time I read an article on this issue.

With the teachers given a 31-day window in August to decide, representatives for the state’s largest public-sector union are imploring them to stay or risk losing their clout in how schools are operated.

“If I don’t stand up and stay in my union, then we don’t have a voice,” said Chandra Madafferi, a high school health teacher and president of a 400-member local in the Detroit suburb of Novi.

Hmmm, OK. Lets read these two posts again:

WHY TEACHERS HAVE NO VOICE

Unions do what they want, without majority of teacher input

And, how about this one?

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

And tell me again what “voice” teachers are giving up by cancelling their union membership and keeping an extra $1,000 for themselves? They didn’t even have a voice to begin with, so how can they give it up?

A significant number of dropouts would deliver a financial blow to labor in a state where it has been historically dominant. Previously, employees in union-covered jobs were required to pay fees for bargaining and other services even if they didn’t want to belong.

“There is a lot at stake,” said Lee Adler, a lawyer who teaches labor issues at Cornell University and represents firefighters’ unions in New York. Public-sector unions, he said, “don’t have a history of being able to do massive recruitment of members who will voluntarily pay dues.”

Ah yes. It’s not actually about giving teachers a voice, it’s about….union dues! What I love the most about the this law is that it doesn’t allow the “collective bargaining fee” that non union members were required to pay previously, which was suspiciously similar to the actual amount of dues for a member.

Bingo – the reason I want teachers to pay the dues independently. If recruitment is much harder with voluntary dues, then maybe the union will actually have to change in ways that will attract teachers for the right reasons. Unions have been spending taxpayer dollars at will for too long!

With contracts covering roughly three-quarters of the 1,100 school workers’ bargaining units expiring, the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity bought a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press with a form that teachers could send to their union to drop out. A free-market think tank has mailed reminder postcards about the Aug. 31 deadline.

“We are making sure that every eligible member who wants out of the union has the ability to do so,” said Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy for the Mackinac Center, which has worked in the Legislature to limit collective bargaining and promote charter schools.

Union officials charge that the group’s “desperate” campaign is aimed at union busting, not worker freedom.

“This is an organization bent on the destruction of not just this union but frankly of the public education system we all believe in,” said Doug Pratt, the state education association’s director of member and political engagement.

So while some groups are helping to provide information to help union members make their own decision (because remember the union was not educating their members adequately about the 31 day exit period) which actually does equate to worker freedom – MEA says the group is destroying public education as we see it.

I’m sorry first of all, they are simply informing teachers of their rights (something the union fails to do, but claims to protect teachers) which has nothing to do with destroying public education.

You know what is destroying public education? The MEA disenfranchising 8,000 teachers for forcing them to pay dues that the state already decided aren’t required. What has MEA done lately to improve public education. Alot of Nothing!

In Novi, Madafferi, 40, said she’s worried that some younger teachers won’t see the value of union membership. She said she has worked to explain the problem with “freeloading,” or benefiting from union negotiations without paying dues. Members pay up to $640 annually to the state union and $182 to the National Education Association, along with local dues.

As I said in this post, “A free-rider problem? Because workers benefit from the union’s contract negotiations and don’t have to pay. Someone PLEASE enlighten me about how the “collective bargaining fee” is calculated. If you are negotiating on behalf of 100 or 10,000 teachers do you really do more work? Free-rider problem, what a bunch of absolute baloney!”

Novi special education teacher Susan Bank, 60, said she plans to save the money, having gone several years without a raise.

“What am I getting for the over $1,000 in union dues I’m paying?” Bank said. “Now that we have the new law, the rules of the game have changed.”

Labor experts say Michigan unions will have to find other ways to demonstrate their value even though they still have collective bargaining power. In neighboring Wisconsin, more than one-third of teachers dropped their union membership after a 2011 law effectively ended collective bargaining for most public employees. But in right-to-work Alabama, nearly 80 percent of teachers voluntarily belong to the union and pay dues, said Adler.

Exactly. Unions in Michigan will have to demonstrate their value, just like any other benefit. The article notes that in right-to-work state Alabama, nearly 80% of teachers voluntarily pay their dues. Maybe MI needs to visit AL. I would say union presence is better in right-to-work states where the organizers actually have to work to get members voluntarily, instead of tax payers handing over cash directly to the union for doing very little work.

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

In my last post, I discussed the new Michigan right to work law.

By March of 2014, a year after the law went into effect, we have some news. Remember the teachers who filed lawsuits over the timing of their request to leave the union?

As a result, the Mackinac Center, a free market think tank in Michigan, filed a lawsuit against the MEA for attempting to force teachers to stay in the union and to continue to pay dues against their will.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed the union informed the teachers named in the lawsuit that they were no longer members and back dues were no longer being sought.

Those suits were settled in the plaintiff’s favor, but in the words of the article:

“There is nothing unique about the situations of Ms. Chanski and Mr. Arthur, yet the MEA insists on treating some 8,000 other teachers differently by threatening to ruin their credit by turning them over to a collections agency,” Wright said. “We think the MEA should comply fully with Michigan law and realize that teachers are able to make up their own minds about whether or not they see a benefit to being in the union.”

The MEA admitted last Wednesday during a hearing at MERC that it has created a policy to go after about 8,000 teachers who so far have refused to pay dues in cash or give the union credit card or bank account information as part of its “e-dues” scheme. A federal appeals court rejected the MEA’s attempts last year to block a state law prohibiting school districts from deducting union dues as a payroll function.

“What public school employees who are still under a union contract have to ask themselves is what is different here,” Wright said. “They should ask themselves why the MEA was willing to let these two people go, but appear perfectly willing to stick it to anyone else who attempts to exercise their worker freedom rights.”

MEA admitted that 1,500 teachers correctly followed the process of declining union membership and dues in the 31 day window in August. However, another 8,000 have refused to pay cash or give over credit or debit card info to have the union enforce dues payment that was just made legal to refuse to pay. They have devised a plan to to “go after” 8,000 teachers – I’m sorry, this is supposed to be a teachers union, that protects teachers? And they are attempting to impact 8,000 credit scores for what? To forcibly collect dues that the state has declared teachers don’t have to pay?

Do you see what I mean now when I tell you that unions say one thing and mean yet another? This proves yet again that unions are only in this business to collect dues (they have to pay their national talking heads 500K a year after all) and not about protecting teachers and definitely not about kids.

Teachers Union puts up smoke screen while they deny workers their rights

MEAheader102813_0

As I mentioned in this recent post, I’ve been promoting the idea that teachers should pay for union dues independently of the auto withdrawal from their paychecks. One twitter commentator mentioned that in Michigan this is happening! I started reading to see what how it has been unfolding.

Late in December 2012, Michigan State Legislature passed a law lifting the requirement for workers to pay union dues and the requirement to join the union.

As I watched the video clip above, a union worker states that she feels the law is taking away their rights. Their rights to what exactly? They may still join. They may still pay their dues. They may still have a union. The union may still collectively bargain. You know what does change? The automatic flow of cash from taxpayers to unions, circumventing the workers choices. From what I read in this piece about how teachers don’t have a voice in their unions, and my post on the issue, I’d say this new law provides and opportunity for the union to go back and listen to the other members and create better policy. This new laws gives more rights, the right to keep your money and not join a union.

Some teachers are already suing the union over their behavior towards this new law:

Their complaint alleges the union is violating the intent of the right-to-work law by only giving them a very brief period — the month of August — to drop their membership.

One of the eight, Coopersville teacher Miriam Chanski, told MEA in a May letter she was leaving the union. MEA denied her request because it was sent in too early.

She claims the union did not tell her this at the time. She only learned of the August opt-out window in September. That was when MEA informed her she would now have to pay another year’s dues.

“It surprised me that there would be more to the process — I had not heard anything else,” she told the local ABC affiliate.

It got worse for her when MEA said that if she didn’t continue to pay, they would report her to a collection agency, which would negatively affect her credit rating.

“My credit is very personal to me and it’s something I take pride in,” Chanski said.

Let’s keep in mind – the union is claiming that the new law is taking away workers rights…while the union is literally

  • Giving folks a 31 day window to leave the union
  • Denied a teacher who submitted her request to leave the union in May, which was too early. Then they did not inform her that she submitted her letter too early, until it was already September, claiming she owes another year’s dues.
  • AND, even though she tried to cancel her membership and the union failed to give her proper follow-up, if she doesn’t pay the dues, they will report her to a credit reporting agency which could have an impact on her credit score

WAIT A MINUTE!! Who is this union working for? Not this teacher. Not any teacher that doesn’t agree with the union. This sounds more like a cult, than a group that is supposed to be protecting teachers.

Last week, Linda Evon, a Pickney special needs classroom assistant, also filed an unfair labor practice complaint against MEA. She said she tried to quit the union Sept. 4, only to be told the deadline had passed on Aug. 31.

Amazingly, this was the response when asked for a comment from the MEA:

A spokesman for MEA did not respond to the Washington Examiner‘s request for comment

Of course not! They aren’t going to publicly disclose that they are trying to preserve union cash over teacher’s own rights. This is an embarrassment to the time when unions were actually needed. But they have transformed into protecting workers in a time when laws were not in place to protect workers to a time when all they care about it collecting union cash.

And they have the nerve to make this complaint:

Big Labor hates right-to-work laws because they typically mean fewer members and therefore less dues revenue. Union leaders complain that they cause what economists call a “free rider” problem, since workers still get the benefits of union contract negotiations. Nothing prevents unions from negotiating “members-only” contracts though. They’d just rather have the additional dues coming in.

A free-rider problem? Because workers benefit from the union’s contract negotiations and don’t have to pay. Someone PLEASE enlighten me about how the “collective bargaining fee” is calculated. If you are negotiating on behalf of 100 or 10,000 teachers do you really do more work? Free-rider problem, what a bunch of absolute baloney!

Of course, with the impending law, many unions rushed to negotiate contracts with a 10 year security clause, locking in the automated union dues. Hello what? The union just negotiated it’s own salary for the next ten years?!!? Teachers in the city of Taylor in MI filed suit to eliminate the 10-year security clause and won.

Unions do what they want, without majority of teacher input

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

In my last post I talked about how teachers should pay the union dues directly, so they can have more control over the actions of their union and because I think it’s veering on an illegal use of taxpayer monies.

I also think that unions would have to pay more attention to their teachers if they had to actually collect the monies. You might be surprised to think that teacher’s don’t have much say in their union. Isn’t it there to protect teachers and represent them? I’m not entirely sure which teachers unions are representing, but its not the majority of teachers.

I can tell you from my own experience as a student in my public schools that the teacher who were younger, more innovative and wanted to make change were easily rebuffed by union officials. So much so that they are scared to go against the union. Scared to speak up? Oh and by the way, the same people you are scared to speak up against, are taking your money for union dues without any say from you.

Now that I think about it, it’s like taxpayers who are scared or unmotivated to approached their legislators about how their own tax money is being spent.

Bottom line, these people are taking your money, more or less without your say so and then are spending it on who knows what.

When I was an intern during my school counseling program, I worked for a counselor who was retiring the next year. She was in a group of teachers who all sat together at lunch and literally gossiped about everyone and made lots of off handed comments about their retirement, their workload, making everything seem like a big sham. They were in it for them first and it at all, the kids second.

Dmitri Mehlhorn has a great piece called: Why Teachers Have No Voice. He makes some very compelling points.

He talks about how his mom was a teacher and when she became a union rep, saw that while she was trying to adovcate for student achievement to be the union’s goal, it was really about job protection and salaries. He says his mom retired early and still worries about ineffective teachers.

A close look shows that many teachers believe in parent engagement and choice. When the chips are down – in other words, when it comes to their own children – public school teachers are twice as likely as other parents to send their kids to private schools. When I had an ineffective teacher as a child, my mom pinched pennies to put me into a private school for a few years. Teachers do this for reasons eloquently explained by Ray Salazar, a Chicago Public Schools teacher who wrote about his choices for his own children and why public education should offer more choices for all parents.

More than anyone else, fellow teachers know how other teachers teach. The most disturbing thing for my as a school counselor intern was that no matter how much time I spend working with a student, I still have to sent him back to the 5/6 ineffective teachers. There is nothing I can do to help him overcome that. And it feels like all the work I do unravels as soon as he walks out the door. I suspect that is why teachers often make choices other than public school for their kids, because while a parent may fight the system to get what their child needs, a teacher knows the fight could be futile, or even detrimental to their own job.

Three quarters of all teachers and an even higher percentage of highly recognized teachers believe it needs to be easier to dismiss ineffective teachers. Unfortunately, teachers feel that they have no voice outside their classrooms.

It is still excruciatingly difficult to dismiss ineffective teachers, while 3/4 of teachers believe it should be easier.

Dmitri’s mom is not the only one to realize that unions aren’t what we need them to be:

My mom’s experience, however, alerted me to the sincerity of those who have concluded that reform unionism is a mirage. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who concluded that teachers’ unions have been an “unwavering road block to reform,” started his career as a teachers’ union organizer. Civil rights leader Howard Fuller traveled a similar path: starting his career as a public sector union organizer, but eventually concluding that the unions prioritized political power over student interests.

I, myself, used to be vehemently for teachers, no questions asked. I assumed, naturally, that the teachers deserved the contracts they asked for because teachers are the foundation of our society. I blindly supported teachers until I started to perform more research. Now I see the evidence everywhere.

Union leaders tend to be unrepresentative. A 2005 survey of membership and leadership by the National Education Association found that only 15 percent of teachers are actively involved with the union.

If unions are going to useful in a positive way, they need to embrace more of their membership. And I think they should get to know all of them better by requiring them to pay the dues out of pocket instead of automatically through their paycheck.

 

Teachers should pay union dues out-of-pocket

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

I’ve been excited about this issue ever since I saw this blog post from a fellow blogger: Union Says Gov. Martinez Committed An “Act Of War” Over Dues. The Governor of New Mexico simply suggested that teachers union dues should not be automatically deducted from teacher pay checks. If teachers want to be part of the union, they can choose to pay to dues themselves.

I support this notion because it seems to me like an illegal or legal but extremely unethical practice where something like this occurs:

Union and LEA agree on an amount of dues in the contract.

Union and LEA agree that the LEA will deduct the dues from teacher paychecks and automatically pay it to the unions.

This seems like the LEA is paying the union to negotiate the contract with the LEA.

While, in theory, members can opt out, generally speaking teachers have zero control over the union dues. Even when membership was not chosen, there was a mandatory CBA fee – of which was mostly the same as the membership fee. How in the world do the unions calculate the CBA fee? Seems like a huge scam to me.

“You don’t want to be a member, its ok, we’ll just charge you most of the dues as a mandatory fee, that you have to pay simply because we negotiated a contract for you, whether you wanted us to or not.”

I wonder if the teachers unions would spend more time paying attention to the wishes of all its teachers if they had to collect the dues from each and every member. In fact, maybe they would spend more of their time collecting dues and less time creating abusive campaigns against education progress.

The union is not the government. The only monies automatically collected from pay checks go to the government. Every other entity on the planet has to collect monies on their own, and unions should not get the unfair advantage of ease of payment.

I see it as taxpayer dollars going directly into the hands of unions with little or no say or control from the teachers unions are supposed to be protecting.

Placing blame does not excuse your responsibility to offer quality education

© Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

© Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

I’d like to offer a response to the comments of the Warwick City Councilor who I’ve started a conversation with about my own high school experience.

Maggie, It is apparent that you were completely dissatisfied with your HS experience in the Warwick School District. That is really unfortunate but not peculiar to public school systems or the City of Warwick. You are convinced you would have “thrived” at the Met School which offers an alternative learning experience. Perhaps, perhaps not.

Yes, I was pretty dissatisfied with my experience at Pilgrim High School. You can learn more about why in this last post. But indicating that my experience is not “peculiar” does not excuse my high schools responsibility to offer a quality education. Claiming that other schools are not better, does not excuse your responsibility to offer a quality education. I’d like you to spend less time putting other school options down and working to fix your own schools.

I have been a mentor to students while they were enrolled at the Met. They did not flourish or enjoy the rigidity of public school education and sought a different educational platform. One dropped out of the Met because she lacked the discipline to take charge of her own education and could not handle the responsibilities or the freedom. A second graduated from the Met but left college for lack of preparation and found competition in college too stressful. In both cases, the students washed out of traditional secondary education. And others succeeded at various levels, the same proportionally to traditional schools.

I applaud your efforts to mentor students at The Met. However your story only relates to these two students in particular. The fact that they were are at The Met in the first place, indicates that they were searching for something OTHER THAN traditional public school. Can you say they would have performed better in their traditional public school? They made an effort to try a different type of school. So it did not work for them, but they tried. Clearly they were looking for another option. Perhaps a third type of school would have been appropriate. We can’t limit options because some students don’t do well. We need to continue to offer options so that as many students as possible have the opportunity to try something new to be successful. Again, it is unfortunate that those students were not able to or successful at attending college. But can you say they would have been more successful in college had they stayed in their traditional public school? I doubt it. Your own admission that the rest of the students succeed at various levels proportional to traditional public schools indicates that alternative education schools are AS SUCCESSFUL as traditional public schools. And for those students, maybe they needed a school like The Met. Maybe those students wouldn’t have been as successful in traditional public schools.

Alternative ed is not a magic button. It may work for some but not others—just like any other school. My Resolution to withhold financial support to Mayoral Academies is based on the belief that our taxpayers should NOT be forced to pay for the charter school experience for anyone but their own children. Warwick school district pays over $1.2 million for students to be educated outside the city. If a student decides to return to their city of origin after 1 October of the school year, the money stays with the outside charter school and the Warwick school district must make up the difference. Why is that fair?

So, if I read this correctly, your only complaint is that IF a student returns to their how city after Oct 1, the city doesn’t recover those funds. How many students does this actually apply to and how much money is that? Because I bet the Warwick residents who ARE sending their students to another school in another city of their choosing expect their tax dollars to pay for that education. So while you may be helping the few exceptions, you are not helping the majority who likely stay in the school of their choice.

We have students who live in Warwick and choose to attend parochial schools, which are also charter schools. Should we augment those costs next? 

There is a clear separation of church and state so, should public money go to private schools? Not necessarily. But what do we say to the parent who determines that the public education they are paying for isn’t good enough for their child and they choose to pay out of pocket for those costs? They are literally paying for two educations. Granted we make a similar argument that residents without children still pay for those education costs, but that can be seen as contributing the society as a whole AND those residents are not paying twice for their education. I’m not saying we should allocate public funds for private schools, but I think we need to recognize that these parents have a valid concern and the least we could do is provide the public funding for public charter schools to support the students who choose to attend.

the school system has its problems but you don’t fix them by pulling the kids out and bringing financial resources to charter schools.

Obviously, it doesn’t improve schools to loose monies – but what are the schools doing to FIX the schools? We pour money into schools and seldom get results. If the schools could start implementing some bolder ideas, perhaps learn from some of the successful elements of charters, maybe they would be better. But you cannot tell parents and student, “Just wait, don’t leave your school, it’s going to get better.” Are you seriously going to tell that to your constituents? “Our schools are going to get worse if you don’t attend here, and we lose the funding from your child.” A parent would laugh at you. Their best interest is in their child, and you are NOT taking their child’s best interest into consideration.

 If a child will THRIVE in charter school because of smaller classrooms or specialized instruction, then Warwick should create District charter schools or academies or “school within a school.”

I hate to have a “duh” moment here…but yes! Implement some of the strategies that have worked in charters into your public schools. But where are they? When is this progress going to come? Talk is cheap. Until you ACTUALLY have the programs in schools students want and will thrive with, you can’t make them stay there. DO IT and then you can argue all day long that you  should keep the kids in traditional public schools.

Why bus our kids outside of their neighborhoods? I went to school during a time of forced busing. It was nothing short of a nightmare. Why send Warwick tax dollars to Providence or other municipality schools? How does that improve the issues that made you so unhappy when you attended school so many years ago?

I believe my prior statements answer these questions. We aren’t forcing busing anymore. That argument doesn’t stand. Why send tax dollars to another municipality? So your residents can get the education they desire and deserve and their funds should travel with them. Even if the money stayed in the school district, wouldn’t you equally argue that Warwick shouldn’t have to pay for out of city students?

Because money isn’t the problem. Policy is the problem. Sometimes, teachers and unions are the problem. Sometimes its principals, or superintendents. We have been pouring money into problems for ages and haven’t seen results. When you can implement the strategies that all students need in your schools, make the argument all you want. But until you can accomplish that, don’t deny students and parents the right to put their child’s best interest first and send their child to a school better suited for their success.

I appreciate your comments but as you said, you no longer live in the community where you were educated. I was elected to represent the folks who still live here and while my responsibilities do not extend to educational policy, my fiscal duties remain steadfast to Warwick tax payers. Be well.

I believe I addressed the issues of fiscal responsibility to residents of Warwick above. In your attempt to protect Warwick tax payer funding, you are putting those parents and students who aren’t satisfied with their Warwick public education at a severe disadvantage. And those students and parents don’t have anyone, especially not you representing them. Your role is to ALL residents, not just the ones you are choosing to represent.